NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Three more people have been diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease in Upper Manhattan.
The New York City Health Department confirmed Wednesday it was investigating a community cluster of the disease in parts of Hamilton Heights and Washington Heights.
The department now says 11 people have been diagnosed in the past week. Nine of the patients have been hospitalized, one has been discharged and one never went to the hospital, CBS2’s Ali Bauman reports.
Health officials are searching for the source of the contamination, which they believe is a cooling tower in the area.
“We are actively looking for the source,” Department of Health commissioner Mary Bassett said Wednesday.
WATCH: Health Department Officials Discuss Legionnaires’ Cluster
Meanwhile, officials held a community meeting on the outbreak Thursday night.
In attendance was 60-year-old Lorenzo McGougan, a Washington Heights construction worker who was diagnosed with the disease in May.
“It almost killed me. Believe me, I was near there. I’ve never been that sick in my life,” he told Bauman. “My equilibrium was gone, I was burning up with a fever, I was a mess.”
He asked health officials why his building’s cooling tower was never inspected after his diagnosis was reported to the city months ago.
“We should get your information from you,” said Bassett.
“This right here could’ve been prevented,” McGougan said.
Legionaries’ disease is a type of pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria that grow in warm water. It can be contracted by breathing in water vapor containing the bacteria.
New Yorkers with flu-like symptoms, cough, fever, or difficulty breathing should contact a doctor immediately. The disease isn’t contagious and can be treated by antibiotics if caught early, but can be spread if people breathe in water vapor that contains Legionnaires’ bacteria.
The health department said there are typically 200 to 500 cases of Legionnaires’ disease in New York City each year.
“If we see more cases than we’d expect in an area over a certain period of time, we have an alarm that automatically rings that says we have a potential cluster,” said Demetri Daskalakis, DOH Deputy Commissioner Disease Control.
Only when there is a cluster, the health department says it investigates and test nearby cooling towers.
“All the cooling towers in this area have been identified, including two that weren’t previously known to us,” Bassett said.
The recently infected patients range in age from 40 to over 80 years-old, but the department says most of them were over 50 and above.
There have been no deaths associated with the current cluster. Officials say it can be treated with antibiotics if caught early.
After the outbreak in the Bronx in 2015 that left 12 dead, residents are eager for answers.
“I hope we get to the bottom of it,” said resident Barry Parker.
“They’re gonna find, they gotta find it,” said resident Maryanne Young.
Health officials emphasize that the earlier a patient is diagnosed, the better their prognosis.